An accent onpassion
Sofia Vergara discovered blondes don’t have more fun, writes Colin Vickery
THE person Sofia Vergara phoned when she was nominated for an Emmy Award last year was her 19-year-old son Manolo. She wanted to rub it in. The nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series was a turning point in her life, highlighting the 38-year-old’s against-theodds rise to stardom.
The Colombian beauty has beaten thyroid cancer, endured divorce, the murder of her older brother, language difficulties and racial prejudice to become a comedy icon as the fiery Gloria DelgadoPritchett on Modern Family.
Along the way she has dated stars including Tom Cruise, Craig David, Enrique Iglesias and Mark Wahlberg.
Manolo, who had been there through it all, wasn’t always supportive of his mother’s acting aspirations.
‘‘ When I started acting, I didn’t have anyone to run (audition) lines with me, and the only one in my house was him (Manolo),’’ Vergara says.
‘‘ I’mlike, ‘ Manolo, I will give you five bucks if you read with me’. He would be so annoyed.
‘‘ He speaks English perfect, Spanish perfect, no accent. He would correct me with a word and then I would do it wrong so he would say, ‘ Don’t even go (to the audition). They won’t understand anything’.
‘‘ When I was nominated for the Emmy, the first thing I did was rub it in his face. It was like, ‘ I did it, even with the accent’.’’
Vergara brought her son, mother and sister to the US after the 1998 murder of her older brother Rafael. Colombia was a crime-ridden, drugfuelled danger zone.
‘‘ My older brother was assassinated, so I had to get my family out and get them to Miami,’’ Vergara has said.
‘‘ We come from a successful family and he knew he was a target for kidnapping. He always had bodyguards. Then one day he went out alone and was shot dead.
‘‘ I was devastated. You don’t get over something like that easily.’’
There is no doubting the spirit of the curvy 36DD brunette. She also had to battle a killer disease.
‘‘ I was very lucky. I had thyroid cancer, but they caught it at an early stage. It was terrifying, but I knew I’d beat it,’’ she says.
Vergara, who had studied to be a dentist, was a noted model and television host of Spanishlanguage travel series Fuera de serie (Out of the Ordinary).
Cracking the US market was going to be a whole lot harder.
It was immediately clear that Vergara’s heavy accent was going to work against her, despite her striking looks (she is a natural blonde).
‘‘ It was very difficult for me. You realise that a normal American actress gets to do an audition every day or two,’’ she says.
‘‘ A person with my accent gets a good script once a week or every two weeks.
‘‘ Most of the roles I played before it (Modern Family) were written for a black woman or an Asian woman. I would tell my agents, ‘ I will go for it anyways, maybe they will change it’.’’
Back then, being a blonde didn’t help, either. Vergara decided to go brunette, with instant results.
‘‘ They (producers) didn’t know where to put me because I had the accent, the attitude and the body (of the stereotypical Latin woman), but I was blonde,’’ she says.
‘‘ They know more Salma Hayek and Penelope Cruz — dark skin, brunette hair.
‘‘ I did it (went brunette) for a movie and immediately I started getting jobs, then I really became hot and Latin.’’
The makers of Modern Family created the Gloria character around Vergara.
Gloria is the younger wife of Jay Pritchett (Ed O’Neill). Like Vergara, she has a teenage son Manny (Rico Rodriguez II).
Gloria’s mangled Englishlanguage mispronunciations littered with spurts of unintelligible Spanish are highlights of the hit sitcom.
‘‘ It (Gloria) is a lot of me,’’ Vergara says.
‘‘ I play a Latin woman, voluptuous, loud, and passionate. For me, I wouldn’t want to be described any other way. I don’t want to be described as quiet, with no a---, and boring.
‘‘ So I am not afraid of being the stereotype of the Latin woman. I think there is nothing wrong with that stereotype.’’ Additional reporting by
Grant Rollings Modern Family, Channel 10, Sunday 7.30pm